The last time Koji Asano featured musicians other than himself on one of his albums, it was for the 1996 free rock power-trio project Gravity. Flow-Augment has absolutely nothing to do with it. It consists of a piece in three movements for piano and string quartet -- no electronics involved, no conceptual dimension to the recording or packaging. This piece is just contemporary music performed on acoustic instruments. He would do something similar again in early 2002 with Spherical Moss Factory, but in a more minimalist vein. The truth is that Flow-Augment is a gutsy composition, very well performed by the Koji Asano Ensemble. The string quartet of Tomomi Tokunaga (violin), Ai Tashiro (viola), Mayumi Yamaoka (cello), and Kentaro Suzuki (double bass) performs alone in part one and is joined by Isao Otake on piano in part two and Asano himself in part three. As deceptive as it may sound, this album turns out to be the place where the composer's originality shines. Stripped of any conceptual artifacts, his writing reveals itself as highly individual as any of his other works. It is impossible to tag influences or comparisons. Asano seems to have listened to a lot of contemporary music and assimilated it perfectly. He shifts from pianissimo textures to lyrical tonal passages and feverish string work with ease. Berio, Lutoslawski, Gorecki, even Scelsi -- you can find anything you want in this, but there always remains an intangible, irreducible part that belongs solely to Asano. His use of glissandi and feather-touch bow techniques makes this album a surprising (and surprisingly pleasant) listen. Impressive.
AllMusic Review by François Couture